Alec Tsang, BC Hydro’s EV infrastructure manager, answers questions about how electric vehicles work, from accelerating to braking

Why are electric vehicles so efficient?

Only about 25% of the energy used in an internal-combustion engine translates into torque, which provides acceleration. With EVs, it’s estimated at more than 90%.

EVs have fewer moving parts and that simplicity makes for lower maintenance. That means no oil changes. “Most battery EVs don’t have any coolants to maintain or change,” says Tsang.

Tesla’s Model S P100D (a sedan that can fit five adults and two kids) with “Ludicrous Plus" mode is the third-fastest accelerating production car. The two fastest? The Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder, two limited-run supercars.

How can brakes in an electric vehicle last for 200,000 kilometres or longer?

“Electric vehicles use what’s called regenerative braking, effectively recharging the battery by running the electric motor as a generator when it slows down,” says Tsang. If an EV’s regenerative braking doesn’t deliver enough braking power the traditional friction brakes will kick in. Conventional cars rely entirely on friction brakes to slow down.

How do fuel costs compare between EVs and gas-powered cars?

Using the Canadian Automobile Association’s electric-vehicle calculator option, we compared the fuel costs of gas-powered cars and EVs over 20,000 km of use.

A gas-powered compact car costs about $1,872 to fuel up. On the EV side: the 2016 BMW i3 costs $396; the 2016 Nissan Leaf S, $400; and the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, $568. On the full-sized model front, fuel costs add up to $2,076, compared to $532 for the 2016 Tesla Model S (P90D).

Make the Switch

Use the microwave, crockpot or toaster oven. A microwave takes 15 minutes to do the same job as one hour in an oven. Use a microwave four times a week instead of your oven and you’ll save $20 a year.